Sigmund Freud

A BIOGRAPHICAL OVERVIEW

Of Sigmund Freud

The history of psychoanalysis is inseparable from the exceptional personality of its creator, the Viennese physician Sigmund Freud, who left an indelible mark on his age. Born in 1856, the creator and theoretician of psychoanalysis has the distinction of great men, which is to be loved as a father by some and loathed by others. Physician, neurologist and writer, his works continue to have great influence over medicine, psychology and philosophy, and all the other areas of the human and social sciences. He was also responsible for training many psychoanalysts, who subsequently organized under professional associations in various countries around the world.

Freud developed a particular interest in the field of neurology during a stay in Paris. Back in Vienna he set up in private practice as a neurologist. It was through contact with his clientele that he perfected his distinctive techniques and theories. Initially interested in the practice of hypnosis, he came to slowly abandon it in favour of more active collaboration with his patients. He did, however, retain some of the relaxation techniques of hypnosis, such as having patients recline on a couch to provide the right conditions for the free association of words and ideas.

After an intense period of mourning following the death of his father, Freud undertook a rigorous self-analysis that heralded the theorization of his discoveries. Published in 1900, The Interpretation of Dreams contains the cornerstones of his new theory. His subsequent publications and correspondence progressively enriched his work until his death in 1939.

Conscious of creating a new science, Freud gathered around himself a circle of collaborators who were keen to follow his teaching and explore the new paths opened up by the theory of psychoanalysis. Some of them, like Karl Abraham, Sándor Ferenczi and Ernest Jones, would become friends. Others, more independently-minded like Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, would break with Freud to set up their own movements. Through the International Psychoanalytical Association Freud did, however, succeed in consolidating the young movement he founded and directed. This association kept a close eye on his work, ensured its circulation and organized the training of new psychoanalysts.

Fleeing from Nazi persecutions, the elderly Freud went into exile in London. Once an unknown, the founder of psychoanalysis became universally famous in the latter years of his life, over the course of which he received a wide array of official honours and distinctions.

Find out more about the Sigmund Freud’s Biography

The Early Years 1856-1886

Theoretical Foundations 1886-1900

The Golden Age of Psychoanalysis 1900-1913

The Second Schema: A Theoretical Rethink 1913-1922

The Age of Wisdom 1922-1939